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Inaugural use of WMU Alert sparks registration surge

Nov. 22, 2010

KALAMAZOO--The first use of WMU Alert on Oct. 26 sent faculty, staff and students to building tornado shelters and triggered a surge in new registrations for the campuswide emergency notification system.

Photo of WMU Alert icon.WMU Alert is part of a Reverse 911 system purchased by the University and launched in August. If an extreme emergency is identified, the system's mass call option is activated, sending voice messages to all numbers registered to receive them. The system is capable of making approximately 4,000 calls per minute.

The number of WMU people registered to receive emergency notification warnings on their office, home or cell phones now stands at more than 10,000. A surge of nearly 400 new registrants was recorded during the week following the Oct. 26 tornado warning in Kalamazoo that led to the first campuswide activation of the system.

That activation, according to Cam Vossen, campus emergency management administrator, has led to a number of questions from users. She says there are a number of points every registered user must know.

  • The system is voice activated. The incoming call will not impart the recorded emergency message unless the recipient answers the phone with a verbal greeting. Some people with caller ID who see the WMU Alert identification simply pick up their phone and listen, expecting to hear a message.

  • WMU Alert does not leave voice mail so that the maximum number of calls can be placed as quickly as possible and to avoid creating confusion and chaos if someone checks voice mail later when the critical incident information has most likely changed.

  • All recorded messages give immediate instructions for action. Some messages then urge the recipient to go to the University home page or call (269) 387-1001 for updated information. The latter two options may not be available in the case of an imminent danger to the entire campus, such as the Oct. 26 tornado. Employees who have Web and phone update responsibilities would be expected to take immediate shelter away from their work stations when warning sirens and WMU Alert are activated.

  • Although the first use of WMU Alert was for a tornado warning, an imminent and threatening weather situation, the system will not be activated for snow closings or other severe weather incidents. The University has a number of other quickly activated and effective communication tools to announce those events. Weather closings are immediately posted to the WMU home page and noted on the emergency phone line at (269) 387-1001 as soon as closing decisions are made. Closings also are communicated through area radio and television stations.

To register for WMU Alert, members of the campus community should sign in to the GoWMU portal and click on the WMU Alert icon found at the top of the main page. The voluntary registration is only for the emergency call system, and the University will not use phone numbers registered for any other purpose.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA
(269) 387-8400